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“Bankrolling Ted Cruz”: Inside The Anti-Gay Church That Loves Kim Davis And Ted Cruz

Right outside this little town, there’s a tiny church that wants to change the world. And, thanks to the billionaire pastor’s backing, it just might be able to get that done.

The church is the Assembly of Yahweh, and its pastor, Farris Wilks, happens to be one of the most powerful new players in presidential politics. Farris, along with his brother Dan, made his fortune off the fracking boom and is using part of it to back Sen. Ted Cruz in his bid for the White House.

But new wealth didn’t dint his commitment to old-time religion—and to the culture war (read: anti-gay) politics that defined George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns. Now, Cruz is taking a page out of Karl Rove’s playbook, looking to galvanize evangelical voters as a way to make the Republican Party competitive again. And Farris Wilks is just the guy to fund that effort.

The Wilks brothers and their wives have given $15 million to one of Cruz’s super PACs—one of the biggest contributions of this campaign cycle, in either party.

And their generosity that has changed the contours of the Republican presidential primary is newfound: The Center for Responsive Politics notes that the brothers and their wives had only given $263,000 to federal candidates before going all in for Cruz this cycle. Farris Wilks didn’t speak with The Daily Beast for this story, but a visit to the church he pastors may shed light on the way the billionaire’s faith informs his commitment to bankrolling a culture warrior like Cruz.

At the end of December, the brothers hosted Cruz and conservative Christian leaders for a fundraiser at Farris’s homestead in Cisco, as The Washington Post detailed. And it recalls a central element of Cruz’s campaign: He’s said he can win the White House by dramatically boosting turnout among evangelical Christians (never mind that his strategy may have a math problem).

The last time Republicans won the White House, way back in 2004, evangelical turnout was the clincher. So, Cruz argues, it’s worth another shot. And Wilks’s little church provides a tiny preview of what Cruz’s evangelical army could look like.

Assembly of Yahweh is just off a ruler-straight two-lane highway that runs between Cisco, Texas, (population 3,820), and Rising Star (“A Small Town With A Big Twinkle,” population 799), and a few miles down from the ornate gates to Wilks’s home. The roadside is dotted with longhorn cattle, cemeteries, and small oil pumpjacks. Suburbans and pickup trucks whip around you if you drive even a hair below the 75 mph speed limit.

The building itself is simple, with tan bricks and clean lines. There’s a large playground out front and a pavilion behind. Two young girls swing open the pair of glass entrance doors when I walk up, and the younger one—who looks about 7 years old—yells, “Go through mine, go through mine!” Then she gives me a hug.

Right inside, there’s a table with a purple sign that says, “The Salt & Light Ministry Biblical Citizenship”—a project that encourages churchgoers to contact their elected representatives about a different policy issue every month. It’s affiliated with the Liberty Counsel, the group that represents Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis. This is no accident, since Farris Wilks supports Liberty Counsel (according to Reuters, which reports he’s given the group $1.5 million).

Cruz recently told backers at a private Manhattan fundraising event that marriage wasn’t one of his top three issues, but it gets top billing at his benefactor’s church. There is a section for topics they always pray for—the Peace of Jerusalem, All Brethren Everywhere, Hopeful Couples (“Yahweh’s blessings for couples eagerly awaiting children”), as well as young people, pregnant women, and the unemployed. Then there are a few new items: attendees who are ill, facing surgery, or recovering from it. And finally, there is a list of continued prayers, including about two dozen people from the area facing various health problems.

Then there’s an entry for Obergefell v. Hodges.

“The Supreme Court has issued a ruling recognizing homosexual marriage in the United States, thereby forcing all states to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples within their states, and recognize as valid homosexual marriages issued in other states,” it reads. “Please pray for our nation as we enter a time of upheaval, and pray for those public officials who are fighting to maintain their religious beliefs. (7/4/15)”

And, finally, there’s the space for Kim Davis.

“Kim Davis, the County Clerk of Rowan County, KY, was jailed on 9/3 for Contempt of Court after refusing to issue same sex marriage licenses,” it says. “Liberty Counsel is representing Mrs. Davis. Many other government officials are also refusing to comply with the supreme court decision, however Mrs. Davis is the first to be jailed for her convictions. (9/5/15)”

Like Kim Davis’s Apostolic Pentecostal Church, the Assembly of Yahweh rejects the doctrine of the trinity—that God is one but exists as three persons, the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit. Instead, the church teaches that Yahweh is the only god and that Yahshuah (Jesus), is a separate being. (Davis’s denomination teaches that Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God are different names for the same being—also a rejection of trinitarian doctrine, but in a different way.)

Though their theology isn’t identical, Davis and Wilks share a committed opposition to same-sex marriage. According to sermons transcribed by the liberal group Right Wing Watch, Wilks has preached that LGBT people endanger children.

“If we all took on this lifestyle, all humanity would perish in one generation,” he said in one sermon. “So this lifestyle is a predatorial lifestyle, in that they need your children and straight people having kids to fulfill their sexual habits. They can’t do it by their self. They want your children… But we’re in a war for our children. They want your children. So what will you teach your children? A strong family is the last defense.”

The Assembly of Yahweh’s teachings on Israel and Jewishness are also interesting. A pamphlet called Doctrinal Points says, “[We believe] That the true religion is Jewish (not a Gentile religion)… [T]he Gentiles must be adopted into the Commonwealth of Israel. This is done by baptism into Yahshua.”

The pamphlet says that the congregation does not observe “the religious holidays of the Gentiles”—including Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and Halloween. Instead, they celebrate feasts mentioned in the Old Testament. In particular, the congregation sleeps outside in tents or campers for a week in the spring to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and again for a week in the fall to celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacle. Ruth York, a member of the congregation, said the weeklong celebrations take place on church property and include bounce-houses for kids, cookouts, and softball games.

They follow the Old Testament teachings on eating laid out in Leviticus 11, which means no pork and no shellfish. And the church teaches “[t]hat homosexuality is a serious crime—a very grievous sin.” So is getting drunk. “It is debauchery,” the pamphlet on doctrine says. “Drunkenness is classed with such grievous crimes as robbery, sexual perverts, adultery, and idolatry. Do not be deceived; no drunkard will enter the kingdom of Yahweh.”

They worship on Saturdays. Farris Wilks’s parents, Voy and Myrtle Wilks, were founding members of the church back in 1947, according to a separate pamphlet on the congregation’s history. Farris is now the congregation’s pastor.

Besides its literal reading of much of the Old Testament, the church also distinguishes itself in its political advocacy. Beside the bulletins is a pamphlet from a group called Stand Up Texas, praising Molly Criner—a clerk of Irion County who issued a declaration this summer through Liberty Counsel promising to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The church service itself—kicked off with three blasts of a shofar by a teen named Isaac—was largely apolitical. There are tons more kids and no Sunday school, so the sanctuary is filled with their muffled hum—coloring in their bulletins, crying, pushing their siblings, giggling, and wandering about. A towheaded toddler in the row in front of me keeps herself busy with a pink plastic castle. At one point during opening worship songs, an orange ball bounces across the aisle. It’s taken in stride.

After the service wrapped up, an announcer noted that it was Salt & Light Sunday, which comes once a month. York explained that the congregation became part of the ministry several months ago—a project affiliated with the Liberty Counsel (which works with Davis and Criner). Churches that participate in the Salt & Light ministry have a table set up once a month that encourages attendees to call or write postcards to their representatives—in the state legislature and in Washington—about a different topics. This month, one focus is the Texas Advance Directives Act, a law that affects end-of-life care decisions. York, the volunteer liaison for Salt & Light, tells congregants that the law means hospitals could “pull the plug” on patients against their expressly stated wishes.

Then Jo Ann Wilks, Farris’s wife, stands up for a quick interjection, frustrated with the quality-of-life rationale she says is sometimes used in these situations.

“We will put away murderers that do horrific crimes, and pay for their pathetic quality of life, and they have no qualms about that,” she said.

It’s not just end-of-life issues. Visitors to the Salt & Light table were also encouraged to write their representatives about the transgender bathroom debate, as well as to urge their representatives to call for public hearings on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. If that wasn’t enough to keep Salt & Lighters busy, a bulletin insert also suggested that the recent Paris climate change deal could mean we are “misusing our yah-given dominion.”

That refers to a verse in Genesis where God calls on Adam and Eve to have dominion over the Earth—a passage often cited by opponents of laws designed to curb climate change.

“Man, created in Yahweh’s image, is to exercise dominion over all the earth,” the insert says. “Yet disagreements in the scientific community give pause concerning the wisdom of the recently-adopted climate change accord.”

An attached postcard encourages members to write to their representatives asking for public hearings on the Paris deal.

The program is an innovative way for conservative Christian pastors to keep their congregations engaged with policy issues even when Donald Trump isn’t yelling about them. It won’t result in the instant materialization of Cruz’s Christian soldiers. But it—and Assembly of Yahweh—is a reminder that though the Christian right has been set back on its heels for the past eight years or so, it’s far from cowed.

“We are not called to isolation,” the pastor said. “We are called to change the world.”

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, January 4, 2015

January 5, 2016 Posted by | Christian Conservatives, Climate Change, Farris Wilks, Fracking, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Elections Have Consequences”: Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Otherwise

You have to be seriously geeky to get excited when the Internal Revenue Service releases a new batch of statistics. Well, I’m a big geek; like quite a few other people who work on policy issues, I was eagerly awaiting the I.R.S.’s tax tables for 2013, which were released last week.

And what these tables show is that elections really do have consequences.

You might think that this is obvious. But on the left, in particular, there are some people who, disappointed by the limits of what President Obama has accomplished, minimize the differences between the parties. Whoever the next president is, they assert — or at least, whoever it is if it’s not Bernie Sanders — things will remain pretty much the same, with the wealthy continuing to dominate the scene. And it’s true that if you were expecting Mr. Obama to preside over a complete transformation of America’s political and economic scene, what he’s actually achieved can seem like a big letdown.

But the truth is that Mr. Obama’s election in 2008 and re-election in 2012 had some real, quantifiable consequences. Which brings me to those I.R.S. tables.

For one of the important consequences of the 2012 election was that Mr. Obama was able to go through with a significant rise in taxes on high incomes. Partly this was achieved by allowing the upper end of the Bush tax cuts to expire; there were also new taxes on high incomes passed along with the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare.

If Mitt Romney had won, we can be sure that Republicans would have found a way to prevent these tax hikes. And we can now see what happened because he didn’t. According to the new tables, the average income tax rate for 99 percent of Americans barely changed from 2012 to 2013, but the tax rate for the top 1 percent rose by more than four percentage points. The tax rise was even bigger for very high incomes: 6.5 percentage points for the top 0.01 percent.

These numbers aren’t enough to give us a full picture of taxes at the top, which requires taking account of other taxes, especially taxes on corporate profits that indirectly affect the income of stockholders. But the available numbers are consistent with Congressional Budget Office projections of the effects of the 2013 tax increases — projections which said that the effective federal tax rate on the 1 percent would rise roughly back to its pre-Reagan level. No, really: for top incomes, Mr. Obama has effectively rolled back not just the Bush tax cuts but Ronald Reagan’s as well.

The point, of course, was not to punish the rich but to raise money for progressive priorities, and while the 2013 tax hike wasn’t gigantic, it was significant. Those higher rates on the 1 percent correspond to about $70 billion a year in revenue. This happens to be in the same ballpark as both food stamps and budget office estimates of this year’s net outlays on Obamacare. So we’re not talking about something trivial.

Speaking of Obamacare, that’s another thing Republicans would surely have killed if 2012 had gone the other way. Instead, the program went into effect at the beginning of 2014. And the effect on health care has been huge: according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of uninsured Americans fell 17 million between 2012 and the first half of 2015, with further declines most likely ahead.

So the 2012 election had major consequences. America would look very different today if it had gone the other way.

Now, to be fair, some widely predicted consequences of Mr. Obama’s re-election — predicted by his opponents — didn’t happen. Gasoline prices didn’t soar. Stocks didn’t plunge. The economy didn’t collapse — in fact, the U.S. economy has now added more than twice as many private-sector jobs under Mr. Obama as it did over the same period of the George W. Bush administration, and the unemployment rate is a full point lower than the rate Mr. Romney promised to achieve by the end of 2016.

In other words, the 2012 election didn’t just allow progressives to achieve some important goals. It also gave them an opportunity to show that achieving these goals is feasible. No, asking the rich to pay somewhat more in taxes while helping the less fortunate won’t destroy the economy.

So now we’re heading for another presidential election. And once again the stakes are high. Whoever the Republicans nominate will be committed to destroying Obamacare and slashing taxes on the wealthy — in fact, the current G.O.P. tax-cut plans make the Bush cuts look puny. Whoever the Democrats nominate will, first and foremost, be committed to defending the achievements of the past seven years.

The bottom line is that presidential elections matter, a lot, even if the people on the ballot aren’t as fiery as you might like. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist; Opinion Pages, The Conscience of a Liberal, The New York Times, January 4, 2015

January 5, 2016 Posted by | Economic Policy, IRS Tax Tables, Obamacare, Tax Revenue, Taxes on the Wealthy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Glad You Finally Noticed”: Latinos Are The One Group That Was Onto Donald Trump From The Start

A few weeks ago, during an appearance on CNN, a journalist who works for a conservative website said what many other political observers have been thinking: “Donald Trump is just not funny anymore.”

That is the popular meme that has been circulating throughout the media and the chattering class of pundits, analysts, and anyone else with an opinion and a burning desire to share it. I’ve heard it multiple times in the last several weeks, this idea that the Republican frontrunner is no longer as amusing and entertaining as he was a few months ago but has morphed into something divisive, demagogic, and dangerous.

I don’t know what planet these folks live on. But you can be sure that, wherever it is, there are no Latinos on it.

There are however scores of Latinos in the United States who—because of Trump’s boorish knack for insulting Mexico and Mexican immigrants, literally from the moment that he leapt off the starting blocks and announced his candidacy on June 16 — would say that Trump was never much fun to begin with.

We sure didn’t take much joy from his nativist swipes at Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish on the campaign trail and crass insinuations that Bush is a moderate on immigration because his wife, Columba, was born in Mexico before coming to the United States legally and becoming a U.S. citizen. And while we would agree that the real estate mogul can be described as divisive, demagogic, and dangerous, many of us are wondering what took the rest of America so long to figure this out.

For much of the nation’s largest minority—the estimated 54 million people who make up the U.S. Latino population, less than 20 percent of whom have a favorable opinion of Trump, according to polls—the billionaire blowhard didn’t just become the GOP’s problem child overnight. The truth is that he has been that way since the moment he claimed, without a sliver of evidence to back it up, that Mexico was “sending” the United States its worst people—including rapists, murderers, and other criminals.

The media seem to have missed this part of the story. They know that Latinos don’t like Trump, but they don’t really understand just how deep this animosity goes or how long it is likely to last. They must think that Latinos will just eventually get over Trump’s tirades, which only illustrates how little they know about Latinos. When we hold grudges, we think in terms of centuries. So, in all likelihood, Latinos are going to be hating on Trump for a long time.

Let’s start at the beginning. For the first five months of his presidential bid, the real estate mogul was a novelty. This quality made him attractive to Republican primary voters and irresistible to a broadcast media that was starved for ratings and ad revenue. With the subtlety of an air strike, Trump said what was on his mind, without a filter, consultants, or handlers. He didn’t use focus groups or rely on polling before making major pronouncements or suggesting radical shifts in policy. He ripped into both political parties with equal enthusiasm, and called out opponents by name. If there is some unwritten code of professional courtesy that keeps politicians from telling us how they really feel about one another, The Donald didn’t get a copy. In just about every way you could imagine, he was refreshing and even—and dare we say it—fun.

In fact, as if to emphasize that point, the Huffington Post initially featured stories about Trump not in its “Politics” but in that portion of the site dedicated to “Entertainment.” It’s also worth noting that, with few exceptions, and with some early attempts to poke at Trump by repeating and amplifying some of his controversial remarks, the Fourth Estate has, for the most part, been on friendly terms with the presidential hopeful.

I remember the exact moment when this epiphany hit me. It was November 12, and while on the road for a speech I was watching CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.” Trump was the guest, and the topic was immigration. The dialogue between host and guest was cordial, and Burnett—who was formerly a financial news reporter—kept referring to Trump by his first name. It was Donald this, and Donald that.

I have a tough time imaging Burnett or, for that matter, anyone else in the media casually referring to other 2016 presidential candidates as “Jeb” or “Hillary.”

Of course, Jeb and Hillary have proper honorific titles that Trump lacks, I know that. But how about going with: “Mr. Trump?” There’s a weird chumminess to it. For the New York media, much of their familiarity with Trump comes from the fact the real estate tycoon is, shall we say, “from the neighborhood.” His spectacular Manhattan penthouse atop Trump Tower is just a short limousine ride from some of the skyscrapers that house the major television networks.

Besides, it certainly didn’t hurt that—even for a Republican—Trump is considered by many to be a moderate on social issues. He also has a long history of contributing to and voting for Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton.

Whatever the reason, Trump spent the first five months of his presidential campaign gliding along on a magic carpet of friendly media coverage. He took care of the media, by being available at a moment’s notice when they called and by consistantly delivering high ratings. And the media took care of The Donald by giving him tens of millions dollars in earned media and handling him with kid gloves.

But then came the sixth month—December—when, after being atop dozens of polls for weeks on end, The Donald suddenly became less fun and more scary.

The tipping point came on the fateful day of Dec. 7. That’s when Trump shocked the country by calling for a temporary freeze on visas for Muslims seeking to enter the United States.

Just a few days earlier, a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, carried out by supporters of the Islamic State, had killed 14 people and wounded 22 others. Worried that elements of the U.S. Muslim community might be in cahoots with terrorists, Trump urged a moratorium on Muslims traveling to the United States until “our leaders figure out what the hell is going on.”

That’s a good question: What the hell is going on? Many Americans really want to know the answer to that question. And they agree with Trump that the Obama administration doesn’t have a clue about the enemy or how to fight it. And, in the absence of any serious and meaningful policy from the White House, Trump has filled the vacuum. In fact, according to the polls, a majority of people agree with the candidate’s proposed moratorium on Muslims getting visas. What sounds controversial to some strikes others as common sense.

But the media and the chattering class aren’t buying any of it. The proposal rubbed them the wrong way. They pounced on Trump immediately. Some insisted that he is a bigot. Others accused him of stoking fears and resorting to demagoguery in order to pick on people who don’t have a voice.

To which, Latinos can only wince and respond: “Gee, you don’t say?”

 

By: Ruben Navarrette, Jr., The Daily Beast, January 4, 2016

January 5, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Latinos, Mainstream Media | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Return Of The Do-Nothing Republican Congress”: The Lunatic Caucus Will Still Run The Show In 2016

Matt Yglesias has written an article that probably won’t be embraced by the partisans on the far left or the far right. It’s titled: 2015 Was the Year Congress Started Working Again. He begins by listing their accomplishments and adds some commentary.

Among some of the things Congress accomplished: The main federal statute governing K-12 education got an overhaul. So did the federal disability insurance system. A long-running dispute about federal highway funding got resolved, as did a long-running dispute about Medicare payments. Last but by no means least, December saw a whole bunch of tax changes featuring good news for low-wage workers and a broad set of business interests. Congress even passed a law to ban microbeads in bath products to help protect the nation’s fisheries.

These aren’t all good bills, and almost none of them are what anyone would consider a great bill, but in a way that’s the point. Legislation passed in 2015 because congressional leaders went back to doing what congressional leaders are supposed to do in times of divided government: compromise to pass bills that don’t thrill anyone but do make both sides happier than they would be in the absence of a bill.

We all know that people like Sen. Ted Cruz aren’t happy about any of this. There are plenty of people on the left who aren’t thrilled either. But as Yglesias points out – it is a clear improvement over the government-by-crisis dynamic we saw previously.

Unlike Yglesias though, I don’t see the productivity resulting from the fact that President Obama is now a lame duck or that Congressional leaders don’t have much of a stake in any of the Republican presidential contenders.

What those explanations miss is that in 2015, Republicans took control of both Houses of Congress. Simply obstructing Democrats was no longer a viable strategy. Initially they eschewed government-by-crisis in favor of passing bills that would force President Obama to use his veto pen. That strategy started to fall apart almost immediately when the lunatic caucus wanted to shut down the Department of Homeland Security over the President’s immigration executive orders.

All of the compromises Yglesias listed happened when the Republican leadership abandoned the lunatic caucus and sought ways to work with the Democrats. And that, my friends, is precisely why John Boehner is no longer Speaker of the House. The lunatic caucus rebelled.

So what is the new Speaker to do? Here’s what Siobhan Hughes reports:

House Speaker Paul Ryan starting this month will push to turn the chamber into a platform for ambitious Republican policy ideas, in a bid to help shape his unsettled party’s priorities and inject substance into a presidential race heavy on personality politics.

Right out of the gate for the new year comes this:

It looks to me like Speaker Ryan is going to once again try to herd the cats of the lunatic caucus in an attempt to rack up symbolic votes that will be stopped by a presidential veto (if not in the Senate first). One has to wonder how that will fly with the angry/fearful right. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be stuck with a do-nothing Congress once again.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 4, 2015

January 5, 2016 Posted by | Do Nothing Congress, GOP Presidential Candidates, Omnibus Spending Bill | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Freelance Insurrectionists”: Is The Oregon Standoff The Inevitable Result Of Anti-Government Rhetoric?

Out in Oregon, the Bundy clan has begun another heavily-armed standoff with the government, seizing control of a building at a wildlife refuge and talking about laying down their life for liberty, presumably in some kind of gruesome battle in which plenty of law enforcement officials are killed along with the martyrs to the anti-government cause. Most of the Republican presidential candidates have so far avoided saying anything about this event, but liberals are raising the question of how much responsibility the Republican Party and its leaders bear for this kind of radical right extremism.

It’s a complicated question, but the answer is: not as much as their most fervent opponents might claim, but not so little as they’d like.

This latest standoff is led by Ammon Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy and leader of what seems to be a band of freelance insurrectionists. If you’re having a conflict with the federal government, they’ll load up their weapons, come to your location, and set up a confrontation with law enforcement, whether you want them to or not.

You can read elsewhere about what led up to this standoff, but it has to be understood in context of the last one, when rancher Cliven Bundy got into a conflict with the United States government over grazing fees. The problem was that Bundy wanted to use public land to graze his cattle, but didn’t want to pay the fees that every other rancher does, since as he said at the time, “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.” Anti-government activists flocked to the standoff, pointing guns at government officials and talking of insurrection. Two of those present at the event would soon after go on a shooting rampage in Las Vegas, murdering two police officers and a bystander.

At the time, some Republican politicians, including Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, said that whatever Bundy’s gripe with the government, he ought to follow the law. But others were far more indulgent. Ben Carson supported the protest. Ted Cruz blamed it on President Obama, calling the standoff “the unfortunate and tragic culmination of the path that President Obama has set the federal government on.” And Rand Paul not only supported their cause but later had a friendly sit-down with Cliven Bundy. Donald Trump took a middle position, saying that laws should be followed, but that when it came to Bundy, “I like him, I like his spirit, his spunk and the people that are so loyal…I respect him.” (For more details on these reactions, go here).

But most critically, during the standoff Cliven Bundy and his supporters became heroes of conservative media. Sean Hannity practically made Bundy his Fox News co-host for a couple of weeks. Their bizarre claims about the government and the means they were using to lodge their complaints — an armed standoff — were validated and promoted again and again by the media outlets conservatives rely on for their news. It was only when Cliven Bundy turned out to be an unreconstructed racist, of the kind who begins sentences with “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” that Fox and the Republicans who supported him finally distanced themselves from him.

Even if they hadn’t been so aggressively supported and promoted by elite conservative figures and institutions, the Bundys’ actions can be viewed as an outgrowth of conservative rhetoric over the years of Barack Obama’s presidency. From the moment he was elected, conservatives said that Obama was not legitimately the president (many of them charged that he wasn’t born in the United States). Virtually everything he did was given a given a dark and sinister spin, with the constant refrain that Obama was a tyrant who had not only usurped power but would shortly turn the United States into a terrifying nightmare of statist oppression. The line between mainstream rhetoric and that of the radical fringe disappeared, with popular television hosts and backbench Republican House members spouting conspiracy theories about FEMA concentration camps and the Department of Homeland Security stockpiling ammunition in preparation for some horrific campaign of repression. Nearly every policy with which conservatives disagreed was decried as the death of freedom itself.

Anyone who took all that literally and believed that the people saying it were actually sincere could well have concluded that armed insurrection was indeed an appropriate response to what was plainly a coup from the enemies of freedom within the government, led by a despot who was literally trying to destroy America. Now combine that with the way so many Republicans talk about guns — not just as a tool of self-protection, but as something whose essential purpose is to intimidate government officials. Second Amendment purists, some of whom are running for president, regularly justify their enthusiasm for loosening gun laws as a way to keep tyranny in check, by showing that gun owners are willing to fight against their government, should it become necessary. As Ted Cruz has said, “The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution isn’t for just protecting hunting rights, and it’s not only to safeguard your right to target practice. It is a Constitutional right to protect your children, your family, your home, our lives, and to serve as the ultimate check against governmental tyranny — for the protection of liberty.”

So on one hand, Republicans regularly say that we need so many guns in civilian hands in case it becomes necessary to wage war on the government, while on the other hand they say that Barack Obama’s government has become tyrannical and oppressive, and freedom is all but destroyed. So why is anybody surprised when people like the Bundys put those two ideas together?

It doesn’t stop there. Republicans were similarly divided on Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who decided that because she doesn’t support same-sex marriage, she could defy the Supreme Court and refuse to grant marriage licenses to anyone in her county. Davis got full support from five of the Republican presidential candidates, while six opposed her move and the rest came down somewhere in the middle. But the point is that a meaningful contingent of elite Republicans said that when you don’t like the law, you can pretend the law doesn’t apply to you, even if you’re sworn to carry it out.

These days, every lunatic corner of the right can find respect and validation from at least some of the most prominent and respected figures in Republican politics and conservative media, at the same time as people are encouraged to strap on their AK-47 when they go down to the supermarket.

Today, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio both condemned the actions taken by the insurrectionists in Oregon. There are surely plenty of other Republicans who are disgusted by the Bundy clan and actions like this standoff, so it wouldn’t be fair to blame the whole party for the rise of this kind of armed right-wing radicalism. But you also can’t say anti-government rhetoric had nothing to do with it.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, January 4, 2016

January 5, 2016 Posted by | Ammon Bundy, Conservative Rhetoric, Oregon Militiamen | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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